Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern’s novel, The Night Circus, has the roots of a good story, but her writing isn’t strong enough to make use of them. The bulk of her 512 pages are filled with nondescript descriptions and repetitive phrases. The general idea: Celia and Marco have been trained from childhood to participate in a decades-long dual within the confines of the miraculous Le Cirque des Rêves, which is only open at night. Neither of them has an understanding of the rules or knows how the victor will be chosen. Fortunately, the back cover elucidates this little mystery for the reader: “Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing.” I purchased this book with the expectation of a high-stakes contest, but after hundreds of pages of pretty illusions (color-changing dresses, ice gardens) there is no sensation that anything is at stake. Celia and Marco attempt to ‘control’ the circus by creating new attractions for its guests, but without criteria to rank their efforts or to understand what these exhibitions mean for their livelihood, it’s hard to view them as competitors. It was easy to set this book down despite the shamelessly cryptic one-liners that end many chapters. read more